A treasure that can be explored only 3 times a year
The Salimbeni were a Sienese family of great political importance. They initially sided with the Ghibellines and were a bitter enemy of the Tolomei family.
We are in 13th and 14th-century Siena, and the Salimbeni enriched themselves with the grain and spice trade in the Maremma and their business of lending to companies.
They were the richest family in Siena and owned numerous castles, palaces and towers, including the Castellare (fortress-house) now known as Rocca Salimbeni, the headquarters of the bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena.
In 1355, the Salimbeni family hosted Emperor Charles IV, while fifty years earlier they had hosted the brother of the King of France, Charles of Valois, with his wife Catherine, daughter of the Emperor of Constantinople, who gave birth to their daughter in this very building.
For almost 200 years, the fortress was the headquarters of the family, from here they recruited men and weapons and began to build their political power. They created a true autonomous state by uniting the territory of Valdorcia with part of Maremma and Valdichiana. In 1340, following a great economic crisis, many Tuscan merchant companies began to fail. The crisis was aggravated by the Black Death in 1347, which killed ¾ of the population of Tuscany. Over time, the Salimbeni changed their activities, abandoning trade in favour of agriculture, acquiring land and estates and becoming among the largest landowners in the country.
The fortress houses an extraordinary collection of paintings from the 14th to the 19th century. The grand monumental staircase at the entrance is truly spectacular, designed by Pierluigi Spadolini during the renovation works in 1972.
In 1866, the fortress was bought by the Monte dei Paschi bank, which made it its headquarters. In 1877, it was restored in a Neo-Gothic style by Giuseppe Partini, who demolished some parts and raised others, adding new ancient-style structures.
During another renovation in the 20th century by Carlo Ariotti and Vittorio Mariani, the buildings on the sides of the square were also remodelled and assumed their current appearance.
It’s not easy to visit Rocca Salimbeni as it only opens its doors three times a year.
- On the morning of 2 July, on the occasion of the Palio dedicated to Saint Ansano;
- on the morning of Ferragosto, the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary to which the city dedicates the Palio the following day on 16 August;
- and on the first Saturday in October for the ‘Invitation to the Palace’ event promoted by Associazione Bancaria Italiana (the Italian Banking Association), during which major Italian banks open the doors of their historical headquarters.